JFK Redacted: CIA Counterintelligence and the Failure of Dallas

The CIA now has until December 15, 2021 to produce the last of its JFK assassination files. As I told the Washington Post, I suspect this second delay in the legally-mandated release of the files is a “ruse.” I hope the CIA proves me wrong. In any case, we will learn more about the Agency’s intentions in six weeks.

Meanwhile, although BIden’s JFK records embargo is an important development, what we have learned in recent years is just as important as what we might learn. Case in point: this new video from Vince Palamara, the JFK research community’s leading expert on the Secret Service. The video illuminates one aspect of the JFK story that the CIA is still hiding 58 years after the fact.

Palamara’s video does not prove there was a “conspiracy.” It is not a “smoking gun.” Palamara merely demonstrates that JFK’s security in Dallas was extraordinarily lax. The video makes the prima facie case that the Secret Service should have been held accountable for the failure to follow standard procedures on November 22, 1963. Incredibly, the president lost his life, and no one in the Secret Service so much as lost their job.

(Actually, one Secret Service agent lost his job. He was Abraham Bolden, the first African American Secret Service assigned to protect an American president. After November 22, Bolden pointed out that JFK’s security was lax and recommended tighter measures. For his professionalism, he was entrapped and drummed out of the government.)

Those interested in Biden’s embargo of the JFK assassination files in 2021 may ask, “Why was the Secret Service not held accountable?” One reason, according to JFK files declassified in recent years, is that the CIA did not want to disclose it pre-assassination knowledge of Oswald.

The key to this story is understanding the relationship between the Secret Service and the CIA in 1963.

The Role of CIA Counterintelligence

Palamara’s video documents the security procedures on JFK’s overseas trips in 1961-63, as well as President Eisenhower’s trips in the 1950s. These arrangements were implemented by the Secret Service in coordination with the CIA’s Counterintelligence Staff, headed by James Angleton. The CI staff identified potential threats and the Secret Service developed its security plans accordingly. A CIA security officer traveled with the Secret Service on these trips.

In November 1963, the entity of the U.S. government that knew the most about a volatile leftist named Lee Harvey Oswald was Angleton’s Counterintelligence Staff. An office with the CI Staff, known as the Special Investigations Group, controlled the CIA’s Oswald file. CI/SIG, as the office was known, had been monitoring Oswald constantly since November 1959. They were even reading Oswald’s mail.

Angleton’s people knew about Oswald’s leftist politics, his recent arrest, his foreign travels, his Russian wife and his contacts with presumed Cuban and Russian intelligence agents in Mexico City. All of this information had security implications. The CIA shared none of it with the Secret Service, according to the 1998 report of the Assassination Records Review Board.

Any serious investigation of the Secret Service’s failure on November 22, 1963 would have raised the issue of what the CI Staff knew about Oswald before the assassination. Under oath, deputy director Richard Helms evasively told the Warren Commission the CIA had only “minimal” information about Oswald before Kennedy was killed. That was not true. Top agency operations officers, all whom reported to Angleton or Helms, knew quite a bit about the obscure and apparently harmless Oswald.

Six of them wrote a memo about Oswald on October 10, 1963, exactly seven weeks before JFK was killed. Here are their names.

CIA officers who knew about Oswald
Six top CIA officers working for James Angleton signed a cable about Oswald six weeks before Dallas.

This cable about the alleged assassin was hidden from JFK investigators by Angleton for reasons he could not explain. Presumably, if the official theory of JFK’s death were true–Oswald alone had killed the president–the CIA would have had no reason not to share the memo on a confidential basis with Warren Commission attorneys, all of whom had the requisite security clearances.

Angleton didn’t act like the official theory was true. He acted like he had something to hide. He told Helms he wanted to “wait out” the Warren Commission. The CIA showed the commission a summary of the October 10 cable about Oswald, not the original. The drafters of the cable–all of whom reviewed Oswald’s file before preparing the cable–were not interviewed by JFK investigators. When asked about his “wait out the commission” comment 15 years later, the flustered Angleton claimed he knew “nothing” about it.

The failure to interview the senior CIA officials most knowledgable about the accused assassin indicates the superficiality of the Warren Commission investigation.

The October 10, 1963 cable (not fully declassified until 2001) is not “smoking gun” proof of a conspiracy. It merely shows that top CIA officers had a “keen interest” in Oswald seven weeks before JFK was killed, which they chose not to disclose.

‘Benign Cover-Up”

In September 1964, CIA director John McCone said publicly that James Rowley, chief of the Secret Service, should keep his job despite the ultimate failure in Dallas. In 2013, David Robarge, house historian at the CIA 3, conceded McCone had concealed material evidence in the president’s death, though he insisted this was a “benign cover-up”

(What a revealing CIA coinage, so potentially sinister in its soothing reassurance: We obstructed the JFK murder investigation, but trust us, we did no harm.)

In an open-source article, Robarge absolved McCone and the CIA with these words:

The protective response by McCone and other US government officials was inherent in the conflict between the Warren Commission’s stated purpose—ascer­taining the facts of the assassina­tion-and implied in its mission­ defending the nation’s security by dispelling unfounded rumors that could lead to destructive interna­tional conflict.

In plain language, the Warren Commission’s “implied” agenda was not fact-finding but damage control (a “protective response” in Langley’s lexicon). Any serious investigation of the failure of the Secret Service on November 22 would have led to questions about the CIA’s extensive pre-assassination knowledge of Oswald. That’s one reason why there was no investigation of the unusually lax security in Dallas. Any such probe would have led to the door of Jim Angleton’s office.

Unfortunately, we will not probably not learn more about CIA-Secret Service failure in whatever JFK files are released on December 15. As the Assassination Records Review Board stated in its final report in 1998.

Congress passed the JFK Act of 1992. One month later, the Secret Service began its compliance efforts. However, in January 1995, the Secret Service destroyed presidential protection survey reports for some of President Kennedy’s trips in the fall of 1963. The Review Board learned of the destruction approximately one week after the Secret Service destroyed them, when the Board was drafting its request for additional information.

The five-member board noted laconically that it “believed that the Secret Service files on the President’s travel in the weeks preceding his murder would be relevant,” adding at another point, “some of the survey reports document information Secret Service received from other agencies such as the FBI or the CIA.”

So faced with a law ordering full disclosure, the Secret Service destroyed 30-year old files, possibly containing information from the CIA, that were relevant to the causes of JFK’s assassination. Such is the “benign cover-up” that continues to this day. These are documents we will not see on December 15, or ever. They have been permanently redacted.


If President Biden wants to do something positive regarding President Kennedy’s memory, he should pardon Abe Bolden and commend him for his service. This is from Bolden’s Facebook page.(https://www.facebook.com/abraham.bolden)

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